Minister rules in hall row

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THE GOVERNMENT has refused to step into a row over the sale of Wigan’s leisure halls.

Independent Coun Bob Brierley asked the Government to stop the council’s decision to dispose of three of the five former public dance halls to the property division of New Springs company 8th Wonder for a total of £250,000.

But the council say that the proposals to dispose of The Monaco, Formby and Lowton Civic Halls, are a good deal for Wigan because they will guarantee that the leisure halls remain open for community use even though the town hall can’t afford to continue with a £150,000 a year subsidys.

Now, in a letter on behalf of Local Government Minister Eric Pickles, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Bob Neill told Coun Brierley that he was sorry to hear of his concerns over the deal - but insisted it wasn’t a matter for the Coalition Government.

He said: “It is for local authorities to decide how to make the best use of their assets, including the relative benefits and costs of holding assets, the relative benefits of the nature/tenure of assets and the disposal of under-utilised assets. This is because they are best placed to know what works and is most appropriate for their local area in a way that central Government cannot. I have stressed the importance of protecting front line services and empowering citizens.”

Council’s Service Director for Economy Stephen Normington said the process for securing the future of the leisure venues has been “fair, equitable and entirely transparent.”